Research Highlights

Cheetahs marching towards extinction

Published online 12 January 2017

Conservation biologists depict cheetahs’ journey towards extinction.

Biplab Das

Human activities such as overhunting and deforestation have been leading to the extinction of many animal species. Now, it seems that humans are accelerating the decline of global cheetah populations, pushing the world’s fastest land animal towards the edge of extinction. 

Analysing global cheetah populations, an international research team comprising researchers from the United Kingdom, Egypt, Algeria and Libya has revealed that just 7,100 cheetahs survive in 9% of their original habitat. Human activities hit the Asian cheetah populations hardest, with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in one isolated pocket of Iran, according to the new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.

“For cheetah, our results should provide a wake-up call as it identifies an urgent need for conservation action to halt ongoing decline,” says lead researcher Sarah Durant from the Zoological Society of London, UK.

The analysis shows that an estimated 67% of cheetahs live on unprotected lands outside national parks and reserves where they face multiple threats such as loss of habitat and prey, conflict with livestock and game keepers and illegal trade. Such pressures had once decimated 85% of Zimbabwean cheetah between 1999 and 2015. 

Combating these threats requires new approaches to conservation to ensure that local communities benefit from wildlife conservation, by sustainably managing their natural resources, the researchers say.


  1. Durant, S. M. et al. The global decline of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and what it means for conservation.  Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2016).